FAA Publications


The FAA maintains a robust collection of publications to ensure that an adequate standard of knowledge is maintained throughout all areas of aviation. These publications are intended for use as the primary point of knowledge and reference for every person who has a need for aviation knowledge, from student pilots to flight instructors to aviation mechanics. In fact, directly referencing this collection of standardized publications is the foundational philosophy of this website.


There are several types of documents the FAA publishes into its publication library. This website is designed to provide an exhaustive compilation of all FAA references for every topic with direct links to the original documents.

Advisory Circular (AC)

An Advisory Circular is a publication produced by the FAA that primarily provides guidance for compliance with the Federal Aviation Regulations (FARs). Although they are not regulatory in nature, they should be consulted whenever possible to ensure that compliance with the FARs is as thorough as possible. For this reason, ACs are numbered in a way that corresponds to the FARs themselves. The number prior to the hyphen roughly corresponds to the applicable "Part" of the FARs for which the regulation being explained is located. For example, AC 91-67 is used to give more clarification on the process of operating an aircraft with inoperative equipment. Advisory Circulars that begin with the number "00" are typically general subjects in which the FAA desires to provide more guidance. An example of this is 00-24C Thunderstorms.

Airman Certification Standards (ACS) / Practical Test Standards (PTS)

The ACS and PTS are documents that define knowledge and skill standards for a pilot applicant to receive the specific rating or certificate being sought. An FAA Designated Pilot Examiner (DPE) uses the appropriate document to ensure that he or she conducts a thorough Practical Test and assesses the applicant according to previously-established standards. The FAA has either an ACS or PTS published for each certificate level and aircraft category for which a person can take a Practical Test. Furthermore, flight instructors use the ACS and PTS to ensure their students meet published standards prior to giving them permission to take the Practical Test.

What's the difference between the PTS and ACS? The PTS was the document type used for all pilot Practical Tests prior to 2016. The FAA published the ACS in 2016 as a way to unify and integrate standards for the entire certification process. The ACS is currently in use only for Private Pilot, Commercial Pilot, and Instrument Rating Practical Tests. All other Practical Tests are conducted using the PTS until the FAA publishes an applicable ACS. Although the PTS and ACS are used for the same purpose, the ACS is more deliberate in specifying the Knowledge, Risk Management, and Skill standards than the PTS. Whereas the PTS contains various "Special Emphasis Areas" that contained little guidance for teaching or assessment, the ACS integrates these topics into each Practical Test Task as necessary. Furthermore, the ACS sets the standard for knowledge required for the FAA Knowledge (written) Exam. Under the PTS system, the FAA published an extensive list of vague test item codes that had little organization. With the ACS, the knowledge requirements to take the Practical Test are unified with those requirements necessary to take the Knowledge Exam.

Although the ACS has made significant improvements from the perspective of creating a unified and integrated approach to certify airmen, it has caused significant controversy due to its revision of various long-standing standards of skills. The most notable differences are the certification standards for demonstrating slow flight and stall recovery. Under the PTS, the applicant was required to demonstrate the ability to maintain flight at the minimum controllable airspeed (MCA) and the ability to recover from a full aerodynamic stall. However, with its new-found focus on integration of skills and risk management, the ACS now requires slow flight to be performed at a speed significantly higher than MCA as well as only demonstrating stall recovery from the first indication of a stall. This shift in thinking has sparked significant debate since its introduction in 2016. Although CFI-Notebook.com does not take an official stance on the question, various well-known figures such as Rod Machado and John King have written articles criticizing and defending the ACS, in addition to a debate at a recent Aviation Expo.

FAA Safety Team (FAASTeam) Brochures

The FAA Safety Team (FAASTeam) has produced a series of safety publications to provide the aviation community with safety information that is informative, handy, and easy to review. Many of the publication in this series summarize material published in various other FAA publications. These documents often describe various "hangar flying" topics in an accessible, sometimes humorous manner. Although they contain a significant amount of valuable knowledge, these brochures have the tone of a friend-to-friend conversation. For this reason, they are excellent documents to supplement the topics discussed in the main publications.


The FAA produces and updates various handbooks that are freely available to the public. These handbooks are developed so that the aviation industry has access to the same knowledge. Therefore, tests can be standardized. The current collection of handbooks spans many different facets of flight. The table below contains brief descriptions of the most commonly used handbooks.

Title Acronym Description Reference (Year)
Aerodynamics for Naval Aviators ANA The purpose of this handbook is to present the elements of applied aerodynamics and aeronautical engineering which related directly to the problems of flying operations. Although it was originally written specifically for Naval Aviation and contains a significant amount of technical math, the FAA currently includes this textbook as part of its publication library. The Airline Transport Pilot (ATP) Knowledge Test currently has a significant number of questions and concepts that are specifically found in this publication. NAVAIR 00-80T-80 (1965)
Airplane Flying Handbook AFH The AFH is designed as a technical manual to introduce basic pilot skills and knowledge that are essential for piloting airplanes. This handbook is chiefly concerned with describing the actual "stick-and-rudder" skills to the operation of airplanes in general. FAA-H-8083-3A (2004)
Aviation Instructor's Handbook AIH Designed for ground, flight, and aviation maintenance instructors, the AIH was developed to help beginning instructors understand and apply the fundamentals of instruction. This handbook provides aviation instructors with information on learning and teaching, and how to relate this information to the task of teaching aeronautical knowledge and skills to students. Experienced instructors will also find the updated information useful for improving their effectiveness in training activities. FAA-H-8083-9A (2008)
Instrument Flying Handbook IFH The IFH is designed for use by instrument flight instructors and pilots preparing for instrument rating tests. It details all of the aeronatuical knowledge and skills required to operate in instrument meteorological conditions (IMC). FAA-H-8083-15B (2012)
Instrument Procedures Handbook IPH The IPH is designed as a technical reference for all pilots who operate under instrument flight rules (IFR) in the National Airspace System (NAS). It provides detailed coverage of instrument charts and IFR procedures from takeoff to touchdown. It is used as a common reference for the ATP and Instrument Rating Knowledge Tests. FAA-H-8083-16B (2017)
Pilot's Handbook of Aeronautical Knowledge PHAK The PHAK provides basic knowledge that is essential for pilots. It introduces pilots to the broad spectrum of knowledge that will be needed as they progress in their pilot training. It is useful to beginning pilots, as well as those pursiong more advanced pilot certificates. FAA-H-8083-25B (2016)
Plane Sense - General Aviation Information N/A This handbook introduces aircraft owners and operators, or prospective aircraft owners and operators, to basic information about the requirements involved in acquiring, owning, operating, and maintaining a private aircraft. This handbook is a valuable referece for anyone who would like to review the "nuts and bolts" of aircraft ownership. FAA-H-8083-19A (2008)
Risk Management Handbook RMH The RMH is a tool designed to help recognize and manage risk. It provides a higher level of training to the pilot in command (PIC) who wishes to aspire to a greater understanding of the aviation environment and become a better pilot. FAA-H-8083-2 (2009)
Student Pilot Guide SPG The SPG is intended to serve as a guide for prospective student pilots and for those already engaged in flight training. It is a "how-to" guide for the general procedures for obtaining a pilot certificate. FAA-H-8083-27A (2006)
Weight and Balance Handbook WBH The WBH is designed in recognition of the importance of weight and balance technology in conducting safe and efficient flight. It is used to assist airframe and powerplane mechanics (A&P) in determining the empty weight and center-of-gravity of an aircraft and to furnish the flight crew with information on loading and operating the aircraft. FAA-H-8083-1B (2016)

Legal Interpretations are responses from the FAA to questions they have received. These questions nearly always have to do with "gray areas" within the regulations that can be difficult to interpret. The FAA then answers the question and explains the thought process behind their interpretation of the regulation in question. Not only is this highly valuable from the perspective of getting direct answers to difficult questions, but it allows the reader to have a look "behind the curtain" to how the FAA approaches a regulation when it seeks to interpret it. Once a person understands how the FAA interprets a regulation, it gives them the ability to apply that same mindset to interpreting other regulations.

Pilot Safety Brochures

Pilot Safety Brochures are the primary publication of the FAA Civil Aerospace Medical Institute. The brochures are a series of tri-fold documents called Medical Facts for Pilots. These brochures expound upon a specific topic within the scope of Aeromedical Factors. Although they are not regulatory in nature, these brochures contain a wealth of information that is useful for teaching and for managing risks associated with various aeromedical factors.


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